Several weeks ago, the Taproot Foundation’s Pro Bono Action Tank Leadership Council hosted the Bay Area Corporate Pro Bono Workshop at Gap Inc.’s headquarters in San Francisco- the last stop on the Workshop circuit that had included Los Angeles, New York City, Washington, DC, Minneapolis, and Chicago.
The workshop was designed to promote an active dialogue about pro bono service among the 50 Bay Area business leaders who were in attendance. The response was overwhelming. Karen Baker, the Secretary of Service and Volunteering and the State of California, gave an impassioned keynote address, highlighting the pro bono ethic and encouraging business leaders to get their employees engaged and hooked on the movement. The audience was enthusiastic when Jamie Hartman, Executive Director, Pro Bono Action Tank, gave her State of the Pro Bono Union address that highlighted the achievements of pro bono service thus far. Participants remained fully engaged as Carol Gutery, National Director, Pro Bono Action Tank walked through the eight different models of pro bono service delivery and shared resources around designing a strong pro bono program.
Another highlight of the event was a lunchtime panel that featured representatives from Gap Inc, Deloitte, Salesforce.com, and Operation Access, who spoke about their active pro bono engagement programs, lending their best practices and learnings to their Bay Area peers. Notably, Operation Access is itself a nonprofit and successful recipient of pro bono services. Ben Aune, the CEO of Operation Access, is an advocate for the movement and has launched an impactful pro bono program for Operation Access employees.
Perhaps a sign that the economic tide is turning, the energy in the room was palpable as workshop participants discussed their triumphs and challenges, brainstormed strategies, and identified solutions around pro bono service. The conversation, to our great satisfaction, centered on “how to do pro bono well” rather than “why should we do pro bono.” Pro Bono Action Tank’s Business Value Flashcards were especially a big hit.
All in all, the formula for a successful corporate pro bono program is simple: identify what a company does best, think about how to apply it to the nonprofit sector, and work with available resources. Whether the goal is to build the capacity of a few local nonprofits or catalyze change in broad issues area, it is possible to build a pro bono program that is as effective and as innovative as the company running it.
Did you attend one of the Workshops? Does your company offer opportunities to do pro bono work? Do you have any tips or questions about how to best engage in pro bono service?
Reach out to our Advisory Services team to see how Taproot can help you build your company’s employee engagement programming.
Melissa Paulo is a Western Region Development Fellow at the Taproot Foundation. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley’s College of Letters and Science.
Natasha (Natalya) Matusova is the Product Development Fellow at the Taproot Foundation. She is a graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy.